Government through the Ministry of Finance has denied media reports that it has cut funding to the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC).
Some sections of the local media have reported that the Ministry of Finance last month cut funding to the FIC leading to unpaid salaries for members of staff at the government investigative wing.
Sources at the Treasury disclosed that the Ministry of Finance deliberately left out the Financial Intelligence Centre from it’s institutional expenditure for December 2017.
“No money was released to the FIC in December and it was the only government institution that was left out. You can ask the minister how this happened, because he cannot claim that it was a coincidence that after they (FIC) revealed that some criminals with government connections were involved in illicit financial transactions, then suddenly there is no funding for them, no salaries for the employees,” the sources said.
The sources said to date, the Treasury had not released money to the Financial Intelligence Centre.
“Even as we speak, FIC has not received any funding from government. You can ask them if they have been paid for the last month and today is January what? No payment. What does that mean? That is a statement from government that they don’t want that institution to continue existing. What is left is to dissolve it, they have already been cut off.”
Lusaka lawyer Lewis Mosho who is seen by many has a close ally of President Edgar Lungu has been attempting to remove FIC Director Mary Tshuma from the Intelligence Centre in a move that is widely considered a government ploy to neutralise the FIC after it revealed that senior government officials were using fronts to deal in illicit financial transactions involving billion of Kwacha.
But the Ministry of Finance has today stated that there has not been any budget cuts to the FIC.
Ministry Spokesman Chileshe Kandeta said in the 2017 national budget, Parliament approved a total estimate of K30 million for the FIC of which 96% was released by end December, 2017.
Mr Kandeta said in the 2018 national budget, Parliament approved a total estimate of K31.5 million for the FIC adding that this week, the Treasury has released K2. 625 million to the Center.
“The Ministry of Finance through various reforms, has taken the lead in ensuring that the government policy of enhancing the performance of fiscal and monetary governance institutions is effectively implemented so that these organisations, FIC included, continue to produce high quality performance for the well-being of the country’s financial and public sectors,” Mr Kandeta said.
“This approach not only helps to position our governance efforts in good standing with our bilateral and multilateral partners in the region and the international community, it also reaffirms our consciousness to the expectations of our people. The 96% funding release to FIC in 2017 certainly reflects the commitment of the government to ensure smooth operations of the organisation.”
Mr Kandeta said it is therefore, inconceivable for some sections of society to suggest that the government is impeding the functioning of the FIC, an entity which it created and brought into statutory existence through an act Parliament; resulting from its own self-motivated interest to trace, monitor, and eliminate illicit flows in the financial system.
“Further, the government has clear communication processes and procedures for line Ministries, Provinces, and Other Spending Agencies such as FIC. In this regard, the public should be rest assured that the insinuated maneuvers allegedly aimed at stifling the operations of the FIC, as some sections of society may want the populace to believe, are non-existent.”
“There is a functional board in place at FIC that deals with policy and operational direction of the organisation. Through the board, the center management submits regular statutory reports on the operations and programmes of the FIC to the government through the Ministry of Finance.”